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Friday, March 22, 2013



BRADFORD, Pa. -- Students from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford soaked up the sun this year in Miami during spring break, but they didn’t do it on the beach. Swapping bathing suits for construction hats to build houses for the Habitat for Humanity of Miami was on the agenda for these spring breakers.

Eleven students from the Pitt-Bradford Habitat for Humanity club and about 40 students from Pitt-Johnstown decided to spend their breaks volunteering and serving the Miami community.

Rachel Brune, a freshman sports medicine major from Philadelphia, said, “I wanted to do something other than lounge around at home, and what a better way to do that then to help out.”

This was Brune’s first time participating in the Habitat for Humanity’s collegiate challenge. She decided to sign up for the alternative spring break trip because she said it was a good opportunity to get to know her fellow club members and give back simultaneously.

“There is always someone who needs help, so if you’re able to give it I don’t see why you wouldn’t,” Brune said.

She said the experience was so rewarding that she is planning to get involved this summer for a local chapter in Philadelphia with her dad.

Pitt-Bradford’s Habitat for Humanity chapter vice president, Nicki Kellogg, a collegiate challenge veteran, said it’s an amazing opportunity that everyone should experience.

Kellogg, a sophomore criminal justice major from Cuba, N.Y, said this year she was excited that she got to do more construction work than she did last year. Her favorite part of the trip was learning how to shingle a roof, she said.

“Knowing you’re putting a roof on someone’s house, who otherwise would be homeless without the help from Habitat, is pretty sweet, Kellogg said.

Kellogg said that the biggest misconception about Habitat for Humanity is that people receive free houses.

“To be eligible to live in a house built by Habitat is a three-step process” she said. “First you must apply for a house, then show a need, and finally agree to ‘sweat equity’.”

Habitat provides affordable housing at low-interest rates giving people the ability to pay off the mortgage. The people receiving assistance are also required to dedicate 500 hours to work on their home, which is referred to as “sweat equity”.

She said being a part of the organization is so rewarding, and she plans to work with the McKean County chapter this summer.

During the course of the week, the volunteers from Pitt-Bradford and other schools worked on five different houses. The students began their work shift at 7:30 a.m. and ended the work day at 2:30 p.m. Paid Habitat staff supervisors taught students how to carry out various construction duties such as landscaping, roofing and building walls.

Kimberly Rublee, a manager in Pitt-Bradford’s Office of Conference Services, advised the alternative spring break trip to Florida. Rublee said the alternative spring break trip benefitted not only the students, but the community as well. Her goal of the trip was to learn more about the Habitat organization to be able to be a resource to Pitt-Bradford club members and the McKean County chapter, she said.

She said based on what she heard about last year’s trip, she expected a powerful experience, but seeing it first hand was so different.

“What surprised me most about the students was that they didn’t shy away from showing their passion and their emotions. I probably shed more tears than anyone,” she said while laughing.

By the end of the trip the students had not only provided service to the Miami community, but they gained a deeper passion for the Habitat organization and a new perspective on cultural diversity, which Rublee said were benefits of the trip.

To learn more about how you can give back to your community, attend a Habitat for Humanity club meeting Sundays at 6:30 p.m. in Room 101, Swarts Hall.

Photos The one of two people shows Pitt-Bradford Habitat for Humanity advisor Kim Rublee, left, and Danielle Erdley, a biology major from Northumberland, Pa., working on a Habitat project in Miami. 

The second shot shows all of the students who took part. They are, from left: first row, Genevieve Ding Lin Tan, Laura Kacprowicz, Rublee, Rachel Brune, Nicolette Fruehan; second row, Gabrielle Bonheur, Melissa Curioso, Ashle’ Morris, Edith Lloyd-Etuwewe and Charles Burdine; third row, Nicki Kellogg and Erdley.

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